WINTHROP — The ice was thick, the water cold, and the spirits high Saturday for the noontime plunge into Maranacook Lake.

Dozens of people linked up to leap into the lake, and they raised more than $28,000 for Special Olympics Maine in the fourth annual Maine Law Enforcement Torch Run Ice Out Plunge.

They jumped into estimated 31-degree water through a hole in the ice cut by officers with the Maine Warden Service. The triangular hole looked like an oversized hot tub, an image belied by the 18-inch-thick slabs of blue ice piled nearby, the blanket of snow and the absence of rising steam.

Wardens and Winthrop firefighters in dry suits, which help insulate them from the cold and the water, waited in the water to assist jumpers to a set of stairs so they could climb out quickly and grab towels. The cold dips were witnessed by hundreds of people standing on shore and on the ice.

Josh Deanda-Whaley and Sandor Doczy-Bordi, 13-year-old friends from Winthrop, each took the plunge as part of the Pond Town Pub team.

It was Josh’s second year and Sandor’s first. Afterward, Sandor said he might return for another year.

“It was really fun,” he said. “After a while it felt warm.”

Michelle Neptune, 28, of Winthrop, wearing a tutu of crafted of teal, white and red netting — Special Olympics colors — waited outside to join the Bloom Salon group.

“I’m jumping for him,” she said, pointing to her brother, Nicholas Neptune, 26, who held his sister’s dry clothes in his backpack.

“I’m proud of her and what she does for us and very thankful,” Nicholas Neptune said. He participates in Special Olympics Maine, competing in basketball and track, including relay, 100-meter run and shot put.

While they waited near the beach, scores of people filled the second floor of the nearby American Legion post, signed in to take the plunge, changing into the ice water gear and greeting their friends and team members.

“I’m the organizer,” said Charle Clark, the Winthrop Police Department’s administrative assistant, as she walked back and forth between the building and the lake. “I have to make sure everybody is where they should be.

She said she and others said they were grateful for the support of the Legion post and its auxiliary.

Clark was on the ice almost every day leading up to the plunge, accompanying a game warden who was checking the thickness of the ice.

Gearing up to jump Saturday were representatives from a number of different law enforcement agencies.

“It’s all for Special Olympics,” said Lewiston police Cpl. Patrick M. Griffin. “It’s all for the kids, but it does more for me than them.”

Cpl. Ian Alexander, of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, brought his family as his support team; but son Brady, now 10, said he was not going to plunge into the icy depths this year.

“It was way too cold last year,” Brady said. This time, he was carrying a camera to document Dad’s leap.

Mike Feldman, a real estate agent from Brunswick, who is on the board of Special Olympics Maine, does the Lobster Dip ocean plunge New Year’s Day in Old Orchard Beach as well as the Winthrop dip.

“The ocean’s 42 (degrees), and this is 31 or 32,” Feldman estimated. “This is colder, but we like it more. There are no tides, and we can jump in as a group.”

Laura Lucas, who raised more than $4,000, was billed as the first Special Olympian to take part in the Ice Out Plunge, and she received a rousing round of applause before and after her dip on Saturday.

“Special Olympics Maine’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” according to its website. In Maine, it reports serving more than 3,800.

Kim Stoneton, of Bloom Salon in Winthrop, said her group of nine people raised more than $5,000 for Special Olympics Maine. She and others on her team wore black, long-sleeved T-shirts; white plastic shell bras; colorful leis; and fancy antenna affixed to headbands.

Stoneton said her late daughter, Kelsey, always supported Special Olympics, so she and the family honor her by continuing that tradition, and a best friend’s son participates in Special Olympics.

As they waited in warmth for the noontime start, Kim Stoneton compared the event to the one last year, where there was no ice.

“The worst is the anticipation all week,” she said. “This week’s been so cold.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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